Located in the heart of Francisville, the Church of the Living God has established itself as a staple of the community. Throughout the years, the church has always provided a place for locals to gather in prayer. Recently, however, the church has also become a rallying point for the needy through its multiple assistance programs.
The church, which is a part of a national organization, first came to Philadelphia in the early 1900s. Since moving to its current location at 1632 Poplar St. in 1973, the church has made an attempt to reach out to the community. The church currently offers a variety of services, including a weekly food and prayer service. While the original point of the weekly gatherings was merely to provide food for local citizens in need, the demand for a prayer-related service was strong, said Alice McBride, one of the church’s deacons.
“Our purpose is to extend the food to the community and those who are in need, to feed those who are in need,” McBride said. “People were coming in asking for prayer and wanting to know more about the Bible, I guess since it was in a church. A lot of them were inquiring about church services and knowing a little bit more, so we started to include a service.”
McBride, who also serves as the church’s administrator, has been a member of the church since she was six years old. While McBride’s job description includes activities such as the food service, not all of the church’s volunteers are well-off Christians. Instead, some of the volunteers used to visit the church for hand-outs themselves.
“We have some that want to help us since they know what it feels like to be one of them,” McBride said. “They wanted to participate because they’re on the other side of the wall.”
Considering that residents of the 19121 zip code, which encompasses Francisville, suffer from a 43.3 percent poverty level and have a median household income approximately $26,000 less than the national average, the demand for food in the area is high. With the number of patrons typically reaching triple digits every week, the cost of the program has risen. However, despite the rising costs associated with the program, the financial backing of the program does not come from the city or state. Instead, almost all of the donations come from within the walls of the building, McBride said.
“The church members donate,” McBride said. “We also give out toiletries, but we started running out very quickly. We haven’t been able to get outside funding quite yet, just a couple of small donations. We have a separate offering in order to fund this.”
On top of the weekly service, which also provides free clothing for the needy, the Church of the Living God also participates in the SHARE program, a tri-state program that provides patrons with uncooked food once a month. Additionally, the church funds a bible school and an Arts and Craft program for the local children.
While the food remains one of the main appeals of the program, the community atmosphere and social opportunities have attracted a number of patrons, such as Albert Walker and Norman Boyd, both Francisville natives.
“[I come to] hear the word of God and to see other people are in the same situation that I’m in,” Walker said. “There are nice people in the church, people that serve and love God. That’s the type of people I want to be around, people that have love.”
“I think it’s beautiful,” Boyd added. “It’s about helping people surviving. Some people have trouble getting a meal a day, so it’s very useful for the neighborhood.”
The majority of the frequenters come from the immediate Francisville area. However, with the presence of a number of shelters in the area, including Trevor’s Place, Somerest Place and RHD Ridge Center, the patrons can also include outsiders who are in the area in order to cope with other problems.
“We have a shelter for men down the street and next door we have a shelter for women,” McBride said. “We don’t get children here, even though we offer to We even have some come from the Strawberry Mansion area… Other services bring their members from their shelters to here.”
In the end, through the efforts of volunteers and the donations of the church, the Church of the Living God has managed to make an impact on hundreds of locals over the course of the years.
“It’s all about the needy, not the greedy,” Boyd said.